Netanyahu’s Likud Party Behind Campaign Targeting Israeli Journalists
Three months before the general elections in Israel, the party launched a campaign blaming media for trying to push watchdog into indicting Netanyahu
Tofi Stoler | 17:52 20.01.2019
Israel’s ruling right-wing Likud party has taken responsibility for a previously anonymous campaign that blames local media for trying to push a state watchdog into indicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Reuters reported the company was extending some of its tools for preventing election interference to locations where significant votes are scheduled for the upcoming months, including India, Nigeria, Ukraine, and the European Union. Israel was not on the list. In October, Sean Evins, Facebook’s government and politics outreach manager, met with representatives of Israel’s Central Elections Committee. The results of the meeting were disclosed by neither the committee nor by Facebook. Evins was joined by Jordana Cutler, Facebook’s head of policy in Israel. Before joining Facebook, Cutler served as an advisor to Netanyahu on matters related to Jewish diaspora. Cutler was also a member of the campaign strategy and communications team for the Likud party during the 2009 election campaign, in which Netanyahu was re-elected. In a previous position, Cutler was a senior officer for public affairs at Israel’s Washington D.C. embassy. On Sunday, following several days of guesswork by Israeli media, the logo of the Likud party was officially added to the campaign ads. Israeli election law, which restricts propaganda and prohibits it from being distributed anonymously, does not currently apply to online and social media activity. In July, Netanyahu, known for his aggressive social media strategies, halted a vote on a bill that would see all publications on social media that were paid for or solicited by a politician or party, including third-party comments or likes, marked as such. Last week, Netanyahu’s Likud party was the only political faction to oppose a motion urging the central election committee to prohibit anonymous political activity on social media.
“Decisions regarding elections-related content and campaigns are subject to global policy and are supervised by dedicated expert teams,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a message sent to Calcalist Sunday.“Jordana Cutler represents Facebook's global policy in Israel and is responsible to conveying it to policymakers and the local public sphere,” she added. In a December interview with Israeli broadcaster Channel 10, the former head of Netanyahu’s coalition, Likud party lawmaker David Bitan, said an indictment published before April 9 will land the country’s ruling party with even more votes than it would have gotten otherwise.